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  • Writer's pictureKristin Woodward

how i saved $755 on plumbing repairs using #girlpower


there’s been some weird juju around here lately, y’all. over the past 3 weeks or so, seems like everything mechanical or technical that can freak out has. my car, my computer and my security system have all gone on the fritz and a leaky kitchen faucet i’ve been trying to ignore reached critical status. the constant drip . . . drip . . . drip . . . was like Chinese water torture. something had to be done.

let me start this story by telling you that neither Spy nor i know a damn thing about home repair of any kind. we are both completely useless in the DIY area and are pretty much at the mercy of professionals to do anything beyond changing light bulbs. it sucks and it’s expensive, but it’s just how it is. back in the summer, we got reamed by a plumber who repaired all 4 of our toilets to stop them from running, which had suddenly caused our water bill to more than double (yikes!). i say reamed, because throughout the process, i had a guy at work who knows like almost everything about these kinds of things gave me a load of crap about paying probably more than 4 times what it would have cost to do this “easy fix” ourselves. because we are gluttons for punishment, Spy signed us up for a service contract with these guys, under which, we’d get 20% off any future service for the year.

so after weeks of trying to dig up the email that has this company’s contact info, he finally finds it. i’m slow at work, so i go ahead and call to get the ball rolling. lo and behold, they can come out in an hour. in retrospect, it seems a little weird that after showing the guy the 2 faucets, the first second thing he did was not investigate the faucets, but go out to my garage to look at the water heater. (the first thing was ask how old the house is — 6 years.) after a few minutes he called me out and showed me a gauge attached to my water heater that read 110. it should read 70.

long story short, his professional opinion was that we needed to replace the water pressure regulator valve. the high water pressure had worn out the cartridges in the faucets, themselves. so those also needed to be replaced. he taps on his iPad a few times and hands me the estimate. it’s in the neighborhood of $890 — with our 20% discount!! for 2 stupid leaky faucets?? totally crazy. so not wanting to get in trouble for being the dope that just opens up her wallet, i tell the guy i need to call my husband. (it feels so 1950s the couple times i’ve pulled that out, but it’s a nice out when i get put on the spot for something i don’t really want to do.) as soon as he hears the H word, he starts back tracking and telling me things he can do or price differently. within the time it took to find my phone and click to Spy’s number, he’d brought the price down $350 and thrown in replacing the cartridge in my bathroom sink, as well. definitely shady. i still called. Spy was clueless, so he said go ahead and do it. at least, with his blessing, i wouldn’t have to hear forever how just i threw away a pile of cash. we were in this one together.

but while the plumber was out getting parts, the whole thing started to feel even ickier. my DIY guy at work said my house wasn’t old enough to need a new pressure valve regulator. a couple quick Google searches showed the parts for all this were pretty cheap and that someone with experience should be able to do all the faucets in under an hour. i called and said i changed my mind. after paying the estimate fee that would have been waived had he done the work. he was on his way. i felt a little relieved and started looking for someone to give me a second opinion. DIY guy at the office recommended a plumber who had done some major work on his house. done.

well, surprisingly, things only got worse.

plumber 2 shows up (not the guy my friend had recommended, but his son). i didn’t tell him what had gone on with his predecessor. i wanted an unbiased assessment. this guy never set foot near my water heater. in his professional opinion, there’s no problem upstairs — just don’t push the handle back too far (?!?!). and downstairs, the whole faucet needs to be replaced because it’s not the kind with a replaceable cartridge. he says this to me as i’m literally on the Moen site looking at the instructions for replacing the cartridge! while i was there, i also discovered i have a $500 faucet (who knew??). so with the $190 he’d charge me to install it if i got the part, i was looking at almost $700 going this route. ugh. i wrote him a check for his estimate fee and knew what was about to happen next. that’s right, y’all.

if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. — everyone who’s a little OCD and tired of getting reamed

so before i was married, i was single and self-sufficient for over 20 years. i lived by myself (mostly) and never (usually) had much money. so i’ve always been good at handling things because, well, i just had to. that’s what you do. and i had forgotten how good i always used to be at handling them cheaply. girls, do yourselves a favor. don’t move from your mama’s house to a man’s. live on your own and learn how to do things for yourself — whether that means mastering a few DIY basics or making enough money to pay for what you need yourself. you will always, always be a better person for it. #girlpower

over the course of the rest of the day, i learned everything i could about pressure valve regulators (turns out they can be adjusted to lower the pressure. duh.) and kitchen faucet cartridge replacement. i hit Home Depot after work with a list of what i’d need to get the job done (literally 2 items) and i was on my way.


yesterday morning, after Miss Girl got on the bus, i got to work. i won’t tell you it was fast or totally smooth sailing, but i got the job done. a lot of the extra time i spent was just re-watching YouTube videos to see the process and make sure i wasn’t going to flood the house or something ridiculous.

adjusting the water pressure was easy peasy. first, you just screw your $10 gauge to your outdoor faucet to check the pressure. it read 100 psi when i checked — no idea if it’s always been set that way, if plumber 1 set it that way or if the pressure has creeped up over the years because the regulator is, in fact, failing. only time will tell on that. but then you just twist a screw on the end of the valve to increase or decrease as needed. it took a few times back and forth up my ladder and outside to the spigot, but literally, i was in no danger of even chipping a nail with this one.

the kitchen sink cartridge replacement is also super simple. you just have to pay attention to what you’re doing and don’t lose your parts. it also helps to have the right tools. i didn’t have the right size allen wrench, but was able to borrow one from a neighbor. then, when the cartridge was stuck and vinegar didn’t work to dissolve the mineral deposits and loosen it, i had to hit Home Depot again for a puller. lucky me! they didn’t have the $50 Moen version i thought i would have to shell out for and picked up a generic one for under $15.

Faucet Cartridge Puller

so far, it seems that the change in water pressure has stopped the upstairs bathroom sink from dripping. i’ll stay tuned on whether i actually need to replace a cartridge there (i’ve already done my research — easy and $20 in parts) and whether that valve regulator thingy needs to be repaired or replaced. but this sure seems like a massively more sane approach to fixing the problem than the expensive options i was originally given.

so how does it break down? all in all, i made 2 trips to Home Depot and spent about 2.5 hours of my time actually doing the work (including re-watching my instructional videos 600 times).

original estimate: $890

plumber service fees: $100

total out-of-pocket cost: $135

savings: $755 (!!!!)

pride and satisfaction: priceless!

i probably won’t actually go spend the money i saved on shoes, but damn, it’s nice to know that i could! anybody else use their #girlpower for good lately?

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